Top law enforcement official resigns in Sao Paulo

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2012 5:32 PM
Top law enforcement official resigns in Sao Paulo

SAO PAULO (AP) — The head of the Sao Paulo state police quit Wednesday amid a surge of deadly violence in South America's largest city.

Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin told reporters he accepted the resignation of Antonio Ferreira Pinto. He will be replaced by former state Attorney General Fernando Grella Vieira.

"This wave of violence is a major problem and we will have to work hard to reverse this situation," Vieira told the G1 news website.

Officials said 10 people were killed and 13 wounded in violence between late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Sao Paulo city.

Killings in the city began sharply increasing in September, a month in which 144 people were killed, according to the state Public Safety Department's website. On Wednesday, officials said 150 homicides occurred in October, a 92 percent jump from a year earlier.

The website says 94 police officers were slain in the first nine months of the year, most of them gunned down while off duty.

Police have said the killings of police are being ordered by imprisoned leaders of an organized crime group called the First Capital Command in reprisal for a crackdown on the drug trade.

Authorities also have said that many of the recent killings appear to be drug-related or involved settling of accounts between rival gangs.

First Capital Command is one of Brazil's most notorious crime gangs. Based in Sao Paulo state prisons, the group allegedly was behind several waves of attacks on police, government buildings, banks and public buses in 2006. Those assaults and counterattacks by police in the slums resulted in at least 175 deaths, including police officers, traffickers and innocents caught in the crossfire.

Sao Paulo state authorities have said incarcerated leaders of the gang suspected of using smuggled cellphones to order attacks and coordinate drug sales, murders of rival gang members and the purchase of weapons would be transferred to a maximum security federal prison outside the state.

Earlier this month, one of the gang's lower echelon leaders was sent to a federal penitentiary in northern Brazil. Others are expected be transferred by the end of November.